To describe the prevalence and treatment of hot flushes in premenopausal and postmenopausal women from the 1960s to the 1990s.
This prospective study, based on a random sample of the total female population of 430,000 in Gothenburg, Sweden, was started in 1968, with follow-ups in 1974, 1980, and 1992. The participants were 1,462 women born in 1930, 1922, 1918, 1914, and 1908 (participation rate 90.1%) who were representative of women of the same age in the general population. For the purpose of analyzing secular trends, we included 122 participants who were 38 years old and 47 who were 50 years old in 1980–1981.
The prevalence of hot flushes increased from ∼11% at 38 years to a maximal prevalence of ∼60% at 52 to 54 years of age, then declined successively from ∼30% at 60 years of age to ∼15% at 66 years of age, and then to ∼9% at 72 years of age. The predominant type of medication being prescribed changed during the observation period from sedatives/anticholinergic drugs in the 1960s to hormone replacement therapy in the 1980s. Hormone replacement therapy was considered to be an effective form of treatment for hot flushes by 70% to 87% of the women.
Hot flushes were a common symptom, with a maximal prevalence of 64% at 54 years of age. Medical consultation and treatment did not increase in 50-year-old women from 1968–1969 to 1980–1981. Treatment changed and became more effective during the observation period.